I’m thankful that we have adventurous friends. On the weekends when we’re feeling like staying in and recouping from the week, our friends invite us to go a-castling! “I was looking on Google Earth…” the conversation starts, and from there – we’re off! Navigating the dirty, rocky roads through villages and farmlands, searching for our destination (finding other sites along the way), finally, we arrive and stand in awe of the sheer amount of time the structure has been standing. So long that there is no rope, no visitors plaque – it’s just always been there – part of the landscape.
Photography. What does that word bring to mind? If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have told you key light, fill light, kicker light, background light. Metering, composition, posing, color, zones –the technical. Then, I attended ImagingUSA for the first time. I did so to complete a goal, my goal of certification. I wanted to go in, show my technical expertise, and go home. I knew my stuff, I was confident I would pass the exam, and I was ready to just get it over with. But, to hedge my bet, I enrolled in the Certification Preparation Class. I sat in the classroom surrounded by award winning images by Gary and Kathy Meek. Stunning images, images that pulled me in and made me wonder– How did they get a light there? Which area did they expose for? Is that even possible? How much editing time was involved? Technical stuff.
Part of the class involved study groups, and I groaned when Gary said this was one of the most important aspects of his class. I HATE study groups – just a bunch of random people thrown together; none of whom would care as much as I. It is embarrassing to type that now because the study group I lucked into (simply because of the hotel I’d booked at) turned out to be the greatest treasure from Imaging 2013. I quickly realized that I was surrounded by true greatness; greatness of heart, greatness of mind, greatness of creativity. Each one of my study mates taught me something during our three nights of cramming. Amid arguments over circles of confusion, explanations of light ratios, and discussions of white balance; Jules taught me that anything is possible if you just do it, Cindy taught me that I need to chill out, Travis taught me to see beauty, Vickie taught me to be myself, Sheila taught me perseverance, Marco taught me to love where I’m at, and Marian taught me how much I needed friends. Even after the class, we encouraged each other with image submissions, celebrated business victories, and consoled each other when goals were missed. I consider these photographers among the best of my acquaintance and having them in my life has made me a better person. ImagingUSA hadn’t even officially begun, and yet, I had learned lifelong lessons.
Exam day came. Two hours later it was over, and it was time to head to “the show”. We arrived just after the floor had opened and we descended the escalators with hundreds of others – a giant tsunami of photographers. After visiting a few vendor booths, we decided to peruse the print competition display. Large zig-zagging temporary “walls” were covered with hundreds of nearly perfect competition prints. Again, I was blown away by the sheer technical genius! But, as I rounded the corner of the loan collection I saw this:
I grew up on a farm, and one of our most favorite pastimes was climbing trees. One particular tree sat directly in front of our home and was designated as “The Climbing Tree”. My siblings and I would see who could climb the highest, fastest, best. I remember falling out of that tree one day; One second I was going up and the next instant I hit the ground, landing flat on my back. The air was knocked out of my lungs, and I was unable to breathe. Seeing this image had the same effect as hitting the ground (without the falling part). I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening. My brain wanted to analyze, but my heart took over – I was mesmerized. This piece grabbed me. And it didn’t let go:
My definition of “genius” was, in that moment, redefined. The possibilities of photography as an art form expanded to infinite. This artist had truly created a one of a kind piece. Times eight. In an industry flooded with photographers, he had separated himself not only through his camera, but by using all available tools. My mind was blown. Incredibly, I was able to meet the artist, Richard Sturdevant, just a few minutes later! Richard had so many awards around his neck he was going to need a brace, yet he spoke to me with such a humble heart. He congratulated my classmates and me on our completion of the CPP exam, and talked to us about our next step – print competition. His heart for teaching shone bright and I am filled with anticipation of someday taking one of his classes. Day one of ImagingUSA, and my heart was changed.
The remaining days were filled with seminars and workshops with some of my idols. Some of my idols were knocked down a peg after seeing the work of the Print Exhibit. And I found new photographers to follow, photographers who cared about the industry and not just about making money. Where I wanted my business to go changed over those three short days. There is no way I could have anticipated that 2013 (with the assistance of the United States Air Force) would move my family to Turkey, that the best choice for my business would be to put it on hold, and that I’d have to sit quietly by while other photographers paraded around me. If I had not attended ImagingUSA 2013, if I had not met the group of people I had the privilege of befriending, if I had not taken the CPP exam, I probably would have folded everything – just shut it down. But my study group friends give me inspiration every day, my new goal of my Master of Photography keeps me motivated, and my certification gives me confidence in my work.
Last year, if you’d asked me what photography means, the answer would have been technical. Now, the word “Photography”, to me, means “Art through persistent knowledge”. I am giddy with anticipation of ImagingUSA next month; my study group will reunite as eight Certified Professional Photographers and we will lay plans to conquer 2014! I hope to see YOU there!The images in this post are used with permission of the creator, Richard Sturdevant, who is AWESOME!
Last week I was flipping through “The Happenings” (the on-base magazine for what’s going on), and saw that Outdoor Rec was offering a trip to Karatepe – in THE RED ZONE! I had no idea what Karatepe was, but we jumped at the chance just to get into the red zone (the portion of Turkey we’re not allowed into as residents of Incirlik). We loaded into the Outdoor Rec bus in the early morning cool; the sky couldn’t decide if it would rain or not the whole day. On the way to Karatepe- an ancient Hittite castle ruin – we stopped at a Kilim co-op where we were able to watch the ladies tie a few knots, then loaded back onto the bus headed for the castle. It’s amazing the hands-on access we have to artifacts here in Turkey – we walked all over the ruins through an outdoor museum and marveled at the history. The day-trip was well worth our time and I think we might go again if the opportunity arises!
We’ve been trying to make a point of getting out and about more frequently – short day trips for now. On this particular Saturday, we packed up the van and headed to Ekotepe, an organic farm offering a breakfast brunch buffet and sweeping views of the hillside. We enjoyed the farm for a couple of hours then continued our journey to find the James Bond Bridge (used in the filming of Skyfall). I kept waiting to drive around a corner and see the expansive structure, but as we went further up the mountain and the road kept narrowing, I began to worry that we’d made a wrong turn. Finally, we rounded a curve, we saw it, and while impressive it was, the movie had made it seem much longer. Regardless, it was a fun day away from the base.
Keep checking back for more photos from our Turkish Adventure!
This mosque is the symbol of downtown Adana. Set in the middle of the city, surrounded by run down buildings, multi-story apartment buildings, and shopping malls, it is strikingly out of place. When we were itching to get off base a few weeks ago, I declared it was “Take Photos of the Mosque” Day, and we set out in the scorching sun to walk the acres of beautiful park hosting the mosque. Of course, as is always the case with me, I arrived at entirely the wrong time of day, so quality images were difficult to capture, and I knew as we were pulling away that I needed to return at night to capture the stunning gem set against the Adana sky. We had a sitter last Friday, and Ryan was my body guard as I set up my equipment on the dark, empty Roman Bridge. Fifteen minutes later, I breathed a refreshed breath as we put everything back in the van and returned home knowing I had created my envisioned image.
It may seem early for this post, but I had time to write it and was inspired! Enjoy!
Okay, so you didn’t learn your lesson from my do it yourself family photo debacle, and you’re determined to do your family’s Christmas card photos. It’s ridiculous, you say, to spend $1500 on a photo shoot, you have a nice camera, and it’s decided; there’s no talking you out of it! Well, lucky for you, I understand! With all of the other holiday hub-bub, it’s difficult to remember to get your family portrait session scheduled. Most professionals are doing Christmas photos in October or early November and you can’t squeeze it in, or maybe there’s just not a professional in your area you trust. Whatever the reason, Becky is here to save the day with some more INCREDIBLE photo tips!
I know you’re going to think I’m a lush, but because this does involve the whole family – you’ll NEED a glass of wine.
Normally, I would suggest setting everything up and then, when your scene is perfect, inviting your family into the set. However, we’re going in a whole new direction this time. The first item on your checklist is to set a day and put it on the calendar. Announce the date to your family; might I suggest the following, “Family, I have decided that Saturday hence will be Christmas Card Photo Day!” (It’s much more effective when spoken in a British accent!) Immediately after the announcement, take the family shopping. Buy festive (inexpensive) shirts, garland, lights, tinsel, fun ornaments – anything that will add to the spirit!
Before the photo day arrives, do a Google search to find a wireless remote that is compatible with your camera. Most Canon and Nikon DSLRs have one available for around $20. You might also be able to find one in your local camera store. A wireless remote is almost a necessity.
The day before the shoot, charge your camera’s battery, make sure there is empty space on your memory card, and be sure you can attach the camera to the tripod (for some reason, I always lose the screw piece for this step). If possible, ensure the whole family eats a healthy diet and gets a good night’s sleep. Seriously.
Alright, the day is here! I can feel your enthusiasm from across the web! This is going to be the pinnacle of your acquaintances’ card collection – you just KNOW everything is going to be PERFECT! Go drink that glass of wine. Now. With your tempered excitement, comment throughout the day about how much fun the photo shoot is going to be! You really want to hype this up, we’re going to make it a blast. Start singing Christmas carols! About an hour before you’re ready to photograph, after you’ve all donned your holiday gear, set up your camera. Start with the backdrop, you can use a wall, a large piece of fabric, or go crazy and build a set. Invite the family to help you. If you’re using natural light, you’ll want your family to stand just at the edge of the window, so your backdrop will need to be behind this area by at least two or three feet. Next, put your camera on the tripod and get the settings dialed in. Start with your white balance. Try setting on ‘shade’, ‘cloudy’, and ‘daylight’ to see which you prefer. Next, you’ll adjust your aperture. If there are four people in your family, set the aperture to 4.0. If there are five people in your family, set the aperture to 5.6. If there are six, seven or eight people in your family, set the aperture to 8.0. The shutter speed should be set on 1/100th of a second (may display as only 100 on your camera). Now, get your exposure to “correct” by adjusting your ISO – you’ll probably need a pretty high setting: 800 or even 1600. Ask one of the kids to stand in as a test subject, and make sure you like what you’re seeing on the back of your camera. Because we are working with pretty small apertures you *might* have to pop up a flash 🙁 If you do, manually adjust it so that it’s at half or even 1/4 power (use your camera’s manual to find out how). You’re window is the main light, so you’ll just use the flash for fill light ( I know, that’s a pretty techie word, please forgive me!) Look through the viewfinder and put some markers on the floor using tape showing what your camera sees. This is just to give you some boundaries – everyone will know to stay between the tapes to ensure they are in the frame. When you’re ready, turn up the Christmas music and place your family.
Wrap each other in lights and garland. Play, laugh, tell jokes, whatever needs to happen to make it fun! And, while you’re having fun, point the remote at the camera every few seconds and capture the memories! Ta da! After the session, make some cookies and hot chocolate and put on a Christmas movie. Maybe this could be a new holiday tradition!
I didn’t follow all of my own advice in the following photos (I left out the wine and the relax parts), but it was the most fun we’ve had with a DIY photo shoot thus far! Also, I was using my studio lights rather than window lighting.
Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments!
A long-standing tradition in the Hays family has been to have a Practice Thanksgiving. Lest we should get to the actual Thanksgiving Day and realize that we made some horrible mistake with the dishes we’ve been preparing for years, we find it a pragmatic and sensible idea to do an audition. To an outsider it may seem as though we’re just trying to double up on the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, but I assure you, Practice Thanksgiving has real value. This year, the family schedule was so busy that the Hays family gathered in Kenton for Practice Thanksgiving this past weekend. My heart was breaking over here in Turkey, while they were about to begin eating their turkey. Ha ha ha!
Skype to the rescue! It was about 10:30pm here when they were sitting down to feast. I was in my jammies, sipping tea at the dining room table and my sister Skyped me. My mom and dad were the first ones to pop on the screen! Then my mom walked the laptop around the room and my joy soared higher and higher, and I became more animated – almost to the point of tears – as each new relative floated past on my iPad screen; my boys! my sisters! my nieces! my nephews! my…ex and his wife!? WTF?
New Hays family rule, when I’m about to act like a blubbering fool on Skype, at least hold up a sign: “YOUR EX IS HERE!” Or, make some kind of jerky head motion with a subtle finger point. Or, put a bag over his head. Something. 😀
Today, as I was sipping my coffee (which I’m supposed to have given up) and scrolling through emails, Abigail came up to me. “I’m ready to do my listening!” she announced. Listening is one of the five activities she has to do each day as her “lessons”, and today she wanted to fly through. Yesterday, she didn’t start until 4pm, but she finished them all: Listening, Reading, Key Word Outline, Writing, and Math.
It’s taken me many years of heartache, failed plans, curricula testing, tears, and frustration to get to where I am emotionally in my homeschool. Just a few years ago if you’d peeked through the window during my homeschooling day, you’d find me yelling, pointing to a checklist in frustration, saying, “Just get it done!” and “No, it’s your work, I can’t do it for you.” or “We’re already three days behind!” Then, two years ago, I had my first encounter with Andrew Pudewa, and after hearing him speak, I went home and wrote a mission statement. I talked to Ryan about what we wanted to accomplish with our homeschool and what we wanted our kids to be at the end of their home high school, and I wrote it down. Having a mission statement for my homeschool gives me a destination; it clears a path and eliminates static. When I start to listen to outside influence, my mission statement gives me a “true north”. I know that if what I’m doing isn’t helping me accomplish my end goal, then it doesn’t need to happen.
School at home is not my purpose. My children are being educated at home. Their education is not on the public school timeline, schedule, or standards. Therefore, you might see them doing their lessons outside; in fact, if you walk by the back fence in the early afternoon, you’ll likely hear me reading a classic. Sometimes, you’ll come to visit me at 2pm and when you ask the kids how their school work went that day, they’ll announce they’ve not yet done any. We might not do science for three weeks. But we write. We think. We ask questions. We listen. Everyday we are building a foundation upon which our legacy will stand, and that is not a duty I take lightly. Even before I’ve finished my coffee or checked my email.
“I’m ready to listen.” she repeated, and waited patiently for me to close my iPad and walk into the living room, where I picked up “Anne of Green Gables” and started reading aloud, and they listened.
To raise college-ready kids who can articulate in writing and in speech their thoughts, values and morals.
Does your homeschool have a mission statement? Let me know in a comment! 🙂
With recent events in the news, I guess it’s normal for friends and family to be concerned about us here at Incirlik:
Then, as I scroll through the Incirlik spouse Facebook groups, I see more and more often the questions pop up, “Should I bring my family to Incirlik? Do you feel safe? Do you feel trapped? Are you worried?” It’s understandable that people are asking these questions, I asked the same ones.
When my husband came home and said we were going to Turkey, I’ll admit I had to go get the globe. I will also admit that when I saw where on the globe Turkey is located… I might have questioned my husband’s judgment. “RYAN!!!!! LOOK AT THIS!” I yelled. “Are you sure it’s safe to go to Turkey?”
“Honey,” he replied in his most I’m trying not to be patronizing voice, “If it was unsafe for you to be there, the American government would not let you go. Period.” And, SNAP! My worries disappeared and I started planning our Turkish adventure. Looking back, I might have gotten a little ambitious:
ME: “I want to go to Israel! Can we go to Israel?”
RYAN: “Certain parts, probably, I don’t know if I could go with you, but maybe we should go somewhere else first. Like in Turkey.”
ME: “I want to go to Mt. Ararat! Can we go to Mt. Ararat?”
RYAN: (After looking at the map) “Probably not.”
ME: “Why not?”
RYAN: (Jamming his finger down on the globe) “Because THAT’S Iran.”
ME: “Okay, how about Sanlifura? Supposed home of Abraham? Oh, or the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. We have to see those!”
RYAN: (Again, after consulting the map, shaking his head, and sighing). “Maybe you should look at travelling on the Eastern side of the country.”
ME: “Where’s your sense of adventure?”
So, after a few bumps in the planning process, I made a list of several sites I wanted to see, and joyously excited, awaited our Big Turkish Adventure to begin. In the middle of June, we landed at Incirlik.
My first impression was ‘Turkey is not the United States’. Turkish is the language of the country and not knowing the language made me feel ignorant, helpless, and even fearful at times. The Turks have extreme pride in their country – the flag flies everywhere; mocking it or the government is an offense punishable with prison- yet, the roadsides are piled with litter. Shopkeepers empty their trash into the street and stand watching as the wind kicks it down the sidewalks. In the United States, when you stop at a stop light, the car behind you stops, and the vehicle behind them stops as well. In Turkey, when you stop at a stop light, the person behind you pulls up beside you (there is not a marked lane there). While you’re waiting for the light to turn, a moped squeezes between you and the bus on your other side, and as you’re driving down the highway, pedestrians filter out into the street without even a glance. There are no rules. Just as Turkey is not the United States, Incirlik is not a base on American soil. While stationed at Dyess, Ryan could call me at the end of his flying day (4am), and say, “Let’s go to IHOP”. When we were in Little Rock and we felt we needed to get away for the weekend, we could throw everything in the van and go; as long as we stayed within 300 miles, we didn’t even have to tell anyone. Making last minute plans is not as easy here at Incirlik. Because of where we are in the world, there are more precautions taken, and that was another aspect of this new adventure that I had to adjust to. I can’t “just go” anymore. I have to check the travel restrictions, and attend a briefing. Someone has to know if we are gone. If we’re just going for the day we have to make sure we can make it back before curfew. No more middle of the night trips to town. This can feel a little freedom squashing until I step back and ponder the “why”. Why are there restrictions, curfews, and processes? Why does someone need to know when I’m gone? Why can’t I post on Facebook when our next off-base trip is planned? Of course, the answer is simple: Because the chain of command is keeping us safe. Precautions mean we are allowed to travel. We are allowed to go off base. We are accounted for. Yes, we are encouraged to be vigilant, be aware of our surroundings, and be smart. But, we are also encouraged to “get out” and venture around this amazing country.
The base commander has started holding regular town halls to address any concerns we have with current world happenings. Repeatedly, he assures us he’ll take care of us. If things started “heating up” and our safety was in doubt, they would get us out of here. I feel that verbal communication is authentic , but in addition, I see the commander’s wife and kids carrying on as usual under the same circumstances I’m in; reassuring me further still that we are safe and sound here at Incirlik. That’s the message I want to send both to the Facebook questioners, and to my family and friends.
For straight up answers to the Facebook group questions: Honestly, after being here for two months without a vehicle, I started to feel trapped, but since then our van has arrived and we’ve been making short trips when we can. Unfortunately, Ryan is a Very Valuable Cog (VVC) in the Air Force and his work schedule hasn’t allowed many longer quests yet, but I know we’ll get there. My safety at Incirlik has never been a concern, and you want to see one of the reasons, Google “Incirlik Patriot Missles”. Personally, I am not worried. Sure, I pray when I navigate traffic, I shake my head at the trash, and I’m trying to muddle through learning Turkish. I want my kids to see other cultures, so I take them out. Extremely friendly and nice, the Turkish hospitality requires me to break down my American defenses and interact; that’s how I want my kids to see me. Being together as a family is the best part about Turkey. Ryan could have come alone and left us in the U.S. for 15 months, but we were given the option of coming with him, and I can overcome many inconveniences for that opportunity. This is an assignment we’ll remember forever, one that will shape my children’s lives. Yes! You should bring your family to Incirlik!
To my friends and family, I’d like to ask that the next time you see the news flash the Syria map with Turkey to the north and you think of me, think of all the adventures I’m planning, and watch for the photos. Know that I woke up this morning, made breakfast, schooled my kids, watched the rain, then blogged. Pretty much the same as my days were in Little Rock. Only with a bit more middle eastern flair!
When I was eight years old I watched in awe the neat, clean stitching appear from the back of the sewing machine. My mother was a master stitcher. Staring determinedly at a mis-matched pile of fabric, she’d pull some of this, some of that, push it through the machine, and voila! out would pop a purse, or a wallet, or a dress, or a robe. Longingly, I begged her to teach me how to sew. Although she had eight other children and precious little time, she patiently demonstrated how to cut, match, pin, and carefully stitch together my first pillow. A shirt was next. Then more pillows! After I learned to read a pattern, there was no stopping me. I had acquired a skill that I’d fall back on for the rest of my life; because my mom had taken the time to show me how to do it instead of saying, “not right now”.
“Not right now” is exactly what I’ve been telling my daughter for the past year whenever she asks me to teach her how to sew. It’s never convenient, I’m always afraid she’ll step on the pin cushion (another story -remind me to tell it), stab herself with scissors, or just not listen to me. Last week, I stopped making excuses. Abigail amazed me! She listened, she was careful when she was pinning, she didn’t poke herself with scissors, and she used the sewing machine with respect. Over the next few years, I’m excited to watch what she creates, and it gives me a warm, squishy feeling inside to know that we share this skill. And I truly understand how my mom felt when she saw my first finished pillow. Proud beyond words.
I am so excited to be one of the 8% of photographers to be a Certified Professional Photographer! Recently, I decided to take a break from client work to travel and work on competition prints. However it’s not easy. I feel like I’m missing a part of me- an important part! I started to struggle with myself to try to find a balance – how can I still make photography a part of my life and also concentrate on the more immediate needs of my family and situation? The answer, of course, is education! I love to teach photography to others. I love to see the light in a mother’s eyes when she “gets it”. I love to see the pure relief of a struggling professional when she realizes a new technique will save her hours of time in the editing room. Two years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to teach others. Thanks to the Certified Professional Photographer program and my relentless pursuit of the designation, not only has my knowledge been built up, but my confidence with myself. I hope that over the next couple of years, I can convince more professional photographers to follow the path of certification. It’s good for the soul.
I’ve had a few people ask me what camera I would recommend, and it rolls nicely into a blog post.
Questions to ask yourself when buying a camera:
How much weight do I want to carry?
How much do I know about photography?
What type of photos will I be taking?
What will I do with the photos I take?
Do I want a built-in flash?
What does my budget look like?
I recommend the Canon Digital Rebel (I don’t care which one) 99% of the time. It’s a smaller, lightweight, consumer camera with great picture quality. The frame rate (how many shots per second) makes it great for sports/action, it’s excellent for someone learning the craft of photography and at around $700 its not expensive (comparatively). If you’ve been using an entry level SLR for a while and you’re ready to upgrade, check out the Canon 60D (the 70D is also on pre-order), or the 7D. The 7D is the oldest camera in the Canon line up and while I think it’s an AWESOME camera, it is a little outdated now. Either upgrade will at least double your cost. The 60D is about $2000 and the 7D is around $1500. The only reason to upgrade to the $3500 5D Mark III is if you’re a professional. As a consumer you’re not going to use the benefits it gives you and you’re paying almost $3000 more. And that’s without a lens.
Okay, I’ve convinced you that the Canon Digital Rebel is the camera for you. The rebel comes with a nice lens, but you’ll want to add at least one more lens to your lineup. Buy the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. It’s about $300, but WORTH IT! The dude at the camera store might try to talk you into the 50mm 1.8 at $150, but say, “No thank you, I want the good one.” The 1.4 is sturdier and gives sharper image quality, and if you’re paying $800 for your camera, you want a great lens. Now for zooms. If you photograph many sporting events, as many parents do, you may find the need for a telephoto zoom lens. I would HIGHLY recommend that before you purchase another lens you learn how to use your camera on Manual. You need to understand how to get the shots your want and WHAT YOUR CAMERA IS DOING to get those shots. Many lower end zooms have a floating aperture* and this can really mess up a manual shooter. Once you understand your camera and what it’s doing, you’ll be more open to the possibility of paying close to $1000 for a telephoto zoom. I can not stress enough the importance of learning to use your camera; it will broaden your world. 🙂
So, you’re going to leave the camera store with your Canon Digital Rebel camera and kit lens ($800), your Canon 50mm 1.4 ($300), two UV filters to protect your lenses ($40), and a decent camera bag to put it all in ($80). You are going to be smart and invest in a class to learn how to use your camera ($25-$50) and use the two lenses you have extensively before you make your next lens purchase. A wonderful investment for documenting your family.
Questions? Please leave comments!
*Lower end lenses (and even some pro-level) have a floating aperture. This means the fastest “speed” or f/number of the lens (how wide the opening) changes depending upon whether or not the lens is zoomed. For example the lens that comes with most entry level cameras is labeled EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6. This tells us that the lens when not zoomed can open to an aperture of f/3.5, however when it is zoomed out fully the aperture can only open to f/5.6. I know this is technical, but another way of looking at it is it cuts the amount of light coming in by more than half just by zooming the lens. This could really mess you up if you’re in a lower light situation and aren’t paying attention.